Keith Olbermann, MSNBC’s answer to a question no one asked, declared this week that I’m the “worst person in the world.” This is not as bad as it might seem. It’s sort of like being called uncool by the asthmatic assistant recording secretary of the high school chess team.
Except Olbermann has a high-rated show on television, while Goldberg is a belching oaf who writes a column that his mommy got him.
Above (l-r): “Asthmatic ass’t recording sec’y of chess club,” Goldberg
I’m the worst person in the world — the designation is apparently a nightly feature of Olbermann’s show — because during a Fox News interview about the current idiotic Rush Limbaugh flap, I said that conservatives don’t actually question the patriotism of liberals, they merely call attention to the statements of liberals.
Uh, yeah. Smart way to play it there, Jonah.
Above: Some books that Jonah has never seen
Olbermann lifted his objection to my statement from the group that launched this Limbaugh flap, Media Matters for America (you should read “for America” as “for the Democratic Party” and “for the Democratic Party” as “for Hillary Clinton”). Olbermann & Co. asserted I was wrong, citing a monologue on Rush Limbaugh’s show that later appeared on his Web site under the heading: “You’re Damn Right American Left, We’re Questioning Your Patriotism.” To which I have to respond: Touché!
In other words, Jonah got totally pwned again and there’s nothing left to argue about.
However, one could split some ideological hairs here.
In other words, he’s going to roll the ol’ 5d4 and attempt a 9th-level Cloud of Weaseling spell.
LUCIANNE GOLDBERG: Jonah, did you clean your room yet?
YOUNG JONAH: If by ‘yet’ you mean ‘on any singular occasion,’ then I cannot be said to have not cleaned my room yet.
LUCIANNE GOLDBERG: [fails saving throw]
There is a difference between the “American left” and “liberals,” after all. And usually when fringe leftists openly denounce imperialist America or express hope that she will be bloodied abroad or at home, self-described liberals are usually the first to respond, “Hey, liberals aren’t leftists.” If Olbermann and Media Matters now want to ditch that distinction and hence claim every nut-job leftist as their own, fine by me.
Anyway, the point I’d been trying to make was that liberals routinely and righteously condemn the “questioning” of anyone’s patriotism — until they have a chance to do it themselves. For example, in the debates over the formation of the Department of Homeland Security and the passage of Patriot Act, Democrats accused George Bush and the GOP leadership of questioning Democrats’ patriotism. But they never did any such thing.
Um, forsooth. Thus doth I counter yon spell with mine +2 Search Engine of Fact-Checking:
December 2001: In response to Democratic plans to question parts of the USA Patriot Act during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, John Ashcroft suggests that people who disagree with the administration’s anti-terrorism policies are on the side of the terrorists. “To those who pit Americans against immigrants, and citizens against non-citizens; to those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.”
February 2002: Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle expresses mild disagreement with US anti-terror policies, saying US success in the war on terror “is still somewhat in doubt.” In response, Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) says that Daschle’s “divisive comments have the effect of giving aid and comfort to our enemies by allowing them to exploit divisions in our country.”
May 2002: After the disclosure that President Bush received a general warning about possible Al Qaeda hijackings prior to 9/11, Democrats demand to know what other information the administration had before the attacks. In response, White House communications director Dan Bartlett says that the Democratic statements “are exactly what our opponents, our enemies, want us to do.”
September 2002: Campaigning against Democrats who did not support his legislation to create the Department of Homeland Security (a department whose creation he had previously opposed), President Bush said that “the Senate is more interested in special interests in Washington and not interested in the security of the American people.”
We’re being sporting here, by the way. The claim was originally that ‘conservatives’ don’t question liberals’ patriotism, but pinioning on the phrase, ‘for example,’ Jonah narrowed the category to ‘George Bush and the GOP leadership.’ Otherwise, of course, there’s a practically infinite supply of counter-examples.
But onward we go with more Jonah:
Rather, Democrats asserted that Republican criticism of their opposition was tantamount to questioning their patriotism. John Kerry was the all-time champ of this sort of thing. He routinely insinuated that criticisms of his positions on national defense were tantamount to McCarthyism. Indeed, like Johnny Carson’s Carnac the Magnificent, Kerry could psychically predict the reaction before it happened. Addressing the Council on Foreign Relations, he prophesied, “I know what the Bush apologists will say to this — that it is unpatriotic to question, to criticize and to call for change.”
September 2004: As John Kerry steps up his criticism of the Bush administration’s handling of Iraq and the war on terror, Republicans repeatedly suggest that he is emboldening the enemy. Senator Zell Miller (D-GA) says that “while young Americans are dying in the sands of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan, our nation is being torn apart and made weaker because of the Democrats’ manic obsession to bring down our Commander in Chief.” President Bush says, “You can embolden an enemy by sending a mixed message… You send the wrong message to our troops by sending mixed messages.” And Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) claims that terrorists “are going to throw everything they can between now and the election to try and elect Kerry,” adding that Democrats are “consistently saying things that I think undermine our young men and women who are serving over there.”
Back to you again, Mr. Goldberg. You were about to argue that Senator Kerry and the Democrats are the real culprits:
This in itself is a backhanded way to question the patriotism of your opponents. After all, to liberals, Joe McCarthy is synonymous with “un-American.” So, by preemptively and wantonly declaring any criticism to be McCarthyite dirty pool, Democrats are questioning the patriotism of their opponents in order to silence dissent (they play a similar preemption game with charges of racism as well). But Democrats did worse than merely question the patriotism of their opponents; they flat-out denied it. Sen. Bob Graham called Bush’s war policy “anti-patriotic at the core.” Kerry dubbed Bush’s “creed of greed” — you guessed it — “unpatriotic.” Howard Dean, the nearly invisible Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, used to get himself into those I’m-turning-into-the-Hulk rages over the merest hint that Republicans questioned the patriotism of Democrats. But he saw nothing wrong with righteously proclaiming that John Ashcroft “is no patriot. He’s a direct descendant of Joseph McCarthy.”
These examples are harder to track down. [Note: see footnote.] Apparently, Jonah has been relying on a single Mort Kondracke column since 2004, when he first started citing these statements. Things have gotten a bit garbled since then, because here’s what Kondracke wrote:
Sen. Bob Graham (Fla.), when he was a candidate, said that Bush’s Iraq policy was “anti-patriotic at the core.” Last September, Kerry said that Bush “lives out a creed of greed for he and his friends” and that it was “unpatriotic” for Bush’s “friends” (i.e., corporate executives) to move jobs offshore. It was a regular staple of retired Gen. Wesley Clark’s campaign to say that Bush’s policies were “not patriotic.”
Howard Dean, when he was a candidate, charged that Ashcroft “is no patriot. He’s a direct descendant of Joseph McCarthy.”
Interestingly, if you search for these quotes, you find almost nothing but right-wing Mort Kondracke, Jonah Goldberg, and Rich Lowry citations in various states of rehash. Where did they come from, and what were the speakers really saying? At this point, we probably know as well as Jonah does. He’s still barreling onward, by the way:
And now with Rush Limbaugh, Democrats, starting with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, are lining up to call the radio host “unpatriotic” and do whatever they can to discredit him. Now, the fact that no serious person actually thinks Limbaugh really or intentionally called soldiers dissenting on the war “phony”…
‘No serious person’ can mean whatever Jonah likes, but it’s clear even to the desperately silly people at Media Matters, with their daily pie fights and seltzer-bottlings and all-tuba renditions of ‘Flight of the Bumblebee,’ that Limbaugh absolutely did say what he said. Back to Jonah:
…doesn’t matter to the Democrats. Rather, they’re just gleeful to play the pot to Limbaugh’s kettle. Never mind that it’s unfair and dishonest, never mind that what they’re doing is far closer to the McCarthyism they routinely denounce, never mind that such Limbaugh-lynching Democratic senators as John Kerry and Dick Durbin have suggested, respectively, that American troops are “terrorizing kids” in Iraq and are akin to the torture masters of Nazi Germany or Pol Pot’s “mad regime.” All that matters is that Democrats get a free hand — thank you, mainstream media — to do what they’ve spent years denouncing as the worst, lowest form of politics. And, unlike Republicans in most cases, the Democrats actually know they are lying. They just don’t care. But don’t take my word for it. I’m the worst person in the world.
And it was a fine showing indeed. Honestly though, being the worst in the game of right-wing punditry requires sustained, daily effort — and we doubt whether Jonah has what it takes to be a true champion.